Many conspiracy theories abound when it comes to Star Wars—some insane, others intriguing, some a bit of both (Darth Jar Jar, anyone?). But what happens when someone applies cold hard knowledge to the stories of a plucky Rebel alliance taking on a bloated Empire? Turns out readers get a grim economic portrayal of the financial standings of that Empire.
Zachary Feinstein, Ph.D., assistant professor of electrical and systems engineering in the School Of Engineering & Applied Science at Washington University in St. Louis recently unveiled a paper entitled “It’s A Trap: Emperor Palpatine’s Poison Pill” that lays out the case that the Empire was in dire fiscal straits at the end of Return Of The Jedi. After pumping most of its money into two ridiculous (and, in hindsight, easily defeated) Death Stars, it would need a galactic bailout. In this video, Feinstein lays out how they came to figure out the cost of a Death Star and what its resulting destruction(s) would mean for the financial outlook of the Empire:
The Battle of Endor would find the Empire, and therefore that galaxy far far away, in desperate need for some sort of economic action to keep it all afloat. So while The Force Awakens may be setting records with its sales, the galaxy in which it exists was once on the brink of complete economic collapse.
As Feinstein says,
The most surprising result was how large the economic collapse could be. Without a bailout, there was a non-negligible chance of over 30 percent drop in the size of the Galactic economy overnight—larger than the losses from the Great Depression over 4 years (from peak to trough).
The outlook appears very grim for the common Imperial citizen,” he said. “I think it is unlikely the Rebel Alliance could have found the political will and financial resources to provide the necessary banking bailout until it is too late.
Those interested can read either the highlights of the paper here or else read the whole thing here and learn how the exercise in modeling an economic system led to this staggering realization that while the Rebels may have won they day, they also may have inherited mountains of debt.